Did you know they rehearsed the Osama Bin Laden raid in Mission Impossible-style Pakastani disguises? Did you realize that a disguise program even exists?

The following includes a brief history of the Navy SEAL Teams with bits and pieces of information you will not find elsewhere.


“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”

The SEALs trace their origins back to the Scouts and Raiders, the Navy Combat Demolition Units (NCDU), the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

The whole history can be a bit confusing because during World War II the Army and Navy both stood up several programs at once.

In their mission at Okinawa, UDT members daubed aluminum paint on their bodies as camouflage to throw off Japanese marksmen. Photographed on the fantail of a fast transport (APD), circa Spring 1945. Photographed released 31 August 1945.

The joint Army-Navy Scouts and Raiders, and for a while, there were two distinct units doing similar missions for the Navy, the NCDUs and the UDTs.

NCDUs focused on surface missions and demolitions and the UDT focused on underwater demolitions. Both units were focused on clearing beach landing obstacles for landing craft holding Marine or Army assault forces like you’ve seen in the WWII movies like Saving Private Ryan.

File:Amphibious Scouts and Raiders memorial - Arlington National Cemetery - 2011.JPG - Wikimedia Commons
Arlington National Cemetery Monument to the Scouts and Raiders of WWII.

At the beginning of this movie, you can see an NCDU fixing explosives to a large steel German beach landing obstacle.


Scouts & Raiders-created August 1942. A joint Army-Navy reconnaissance unit. Selection for the program was done in Little Creek, Virginia. Today home to the East coast even-numbered SEAL Teams, along with ST6 or DEVGRU. Phil H. Bucklew (1914-1992) was one of the first officers to volunteer for the Scouts and Raiders in WWII. He was awarded multiple medals, including the Navy Cross for heroism and leadership on D-Day against Nazi German forces. You can see several monuments to Bucklew on SEAL bases east and west coast.

Underwater Demolition Teams-created September of 1942 (just after the Scouts & Raiders were formed). In November of 1942, the newly established unit cleared barriers in Morocco’s Wadi river and were later deployed mostly in the Pacific theater.

UDTs practicing cast and recovery for high-speed water insertion and extraction.

Navy Combat Demolition Units-established May 1943 and tasked with eliminating amphibious obstructions. Deployed mostly in the European theatre of combat. Draper Kauffman was one of the key founding officers of the NCDUs. He’s also related to former President George W. Bush and why Bush would often display favoritism towards the SEALs when he was President.

Office of Strategic Service-US intelligence agency formed under the Joint Chiefs of Staff during World War II. It was dissolved after the war and re-born as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a few other splinter intelligence organizations. The organization would recruit from and borrow members from all units above.

OSS Training
Office of Strategic Services (OSS) candidates learn how to set up radio antennae. U.S. National Archives.

Scouts and Raiders, and NCDU eventually consolidated into the Underwater Demolition Teams. The UDT saw action in the Korean War and Vietnam.

Birth of the Sea Air Land (SEAL) Teams

Members of SEAL TEAM 1 in Vietnam loaded for Charlie.

In the 1960s President John F. Kennedy’s military recognized a need for a maritime special operations unit and commissioned the first Navy SEAL Teams (SEA-AIR-LAND). SEAL TEAM ONE, based in San Diego, and SEAL TEAM TWO, based in Little Creek, Virginia.

Although, as early as 1958, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh A. Burke proposed the initiation of covert measures designed to keep the Communist powers off-balance. Understanding where President Eisenhower and later Kennedy wanted to focus in the area of Unconventional Warfare, Admiral Burke directed the OPNAV staff to organize new or existing Navy units for smaller conflicts. So it could be said that it was more of an evolutionary process with JFK getting credit.

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Navy SEALs bluejeans
SEAL TEAM 1 in Vietnam. Notice many wear Levi jeans because they were quieter, when wet than issue trousers.

The SEAL candidates were pulled from the UDT community and the UDT screening and selection process would lead to the modern selection program that today we still call BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training. I think eventually the acronym will change to focus on only SEAL training. The military loves having acronyms for acronyms! SEAL TEAM 6 has had so many that everyone has come full circle and just calls it TEAM 6 again, unofficially of course.

In 1983 the UDTs were dissolved and rolled up into the SEAL Teams.

Side note: One of the most famous UDT members is, Jesse Ventura. A Wrestling star that went on to become the Governor of Minnesota. The most famous public SEAL feud was between Chris Kyle (American Sniper), and Jesse Ventura.

Chris claimed he punched Ventura out at a local SEAL bar called, McP’s Irish pub in Coronado, California. Jesse denied the incident happened and sued Chris and his widow. Public outcry ensued because Ventura was seen to go after a dead hero’s widow. 

Modern Day Navy SEALs

A Modern Navy SEAL kitted up for a night parachute jump.

Today we have Teams that share global warfare.

Prior to 9/11 the teams divided up the globe by region.

Example: SEAL TEAM 3 was responsible for Southwest Asia (e.g. Middle East) and SEAL TEAM 4 had South America. Today the World is their battlefield.

BUD/S Training in San Diego, California. All students go through training in San Diego, California at the Naval Special Warfare Center. 90% of candidates who start will never finish. Another 10% who make it to the Teams will be washed out for tactical reasons. Usually, they can’t shoot, move and communicate effectively and are removed for lacking tactical prowess, sometimes for attitude issues.

There’s a reason in the SEALs they say, “Earn your Trident, every day.”

West Coast SEAL TEAMS 

  • SEAL TEAM ONE in San Diego, California.
  • SEAL TEAM THREE in San Diego, California.
  • SEAL TEAM FIVE in San Diego, California.
  • SEAL TEAM SEVEN in San Diego, California.
Navy SEAL image.
Modern SEALs conducted VBSS (Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure) operations.


  • SEAL TEAM TWO, Little Creek, Virginia.
  • SEAL TEAM FOUR, Little Creek, Virginia.
  • SEAL TEAM EIGHT, Little Creek, Virginia.
  • SEAL TEAM TEN, Little Creek, Virginia.
  • SEAL TEAM 6 (DEVGRU)-Tier 1 Counter Terrorism Unit, Dam Neck, Virginia.
  • SEAL DELIVERY VEHICLE TEAM TWO, Little Creek, Virginia.

Top 10 Navy SEAL Equipment List – Gear, Boots & More

The Editors of SOFREP hope you enjoyed this historic summary. If you are looking for information about other units like Delta Force, be sure to join our community and search our extensive database, member chat, and forums. Veteran-reported news and information you can trust has never been more important than it is today, will you answer the call?

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Believe it or not, the most beloved personal defense weapon of the typical Navy Seal is not a pistol or a rifle.  You can read about their favorite right here.

If you want to understand how the Navy’s premier counter-terrorism unit, SEAL Team Six was developed in near secrecy even within the military itself, you have to start here.

SOFREP’s Navy SEALs: The Complete Guide is the best primer on the SEAL Teams that you will find.